is this a logical fallacy existence is proof of existence

Just to preface this, I’m not a theist or an atheist, but I call myself a mystical agnostic as this allows me to debate theists and atheists.

Anyway, I was going back and forth with a guy about atheism and he brought up that he has no burden of proof with the ‘can’t prove a negative’ thing. I said that was true, but if he *stated, as fact, that ‘there is no God’ then he would have to offer some kind of evidence or logic that would prove there was no God. I then said, “How about ‘existence’ explain that to me.” I figured he would reply with the Big Bang, which is a perfectly good explanation from a scientific standpoint. But to my surprise he responded with this: existence is proof of existence

It seems like some kind of logical fallacy, like if I said, “My thumb exists because my thumb exists.” It seems redundant to me and doesn’t address the Big Bang or God or any other theory there might be out there.

Can anybody explain to me what his statement means or doesn’t mean as far as proof/no proof of anything?

*Stated as fact, not to be confused with, you believe, think or in you opinion. The semantics are very precise.

I think therefore I am? :slight_smile:

You need to exist in order to observe your existence.

I think he misunderstood you. You were asking for an explanation for existence, i.e., “why do we exist?”, but he gave you a proof for existence, “prove that we exist.”

His statement essentially boils down to “I think therefore I am”.


Well, no, not “I think therefore I am” in the Cartesian way. I think that your friend meant the old concept of existence only being true because there’s something that exists, and there’s no need to add an external element.

So in a way your friend was telling you that a thumb is a thumb because it’s a thumb and not any other finger.

Not really; non-existence seems to me to be the default assumption. Note that the statement “there is no God” is, at least in theory, falsifiable (namely, if God would choose to reveal his existence) while the statement “there exists a God” cannot be falsified by any number of observations or experiments.

“It is what it is.”

It could be falsified if someone were to define what God was in such a way that an experiment could definitively demonstrate the lack of some property of the world which would exist were God to exist.

For example, I can prove that there is no ten-foot-tall golden idol in the middle of my living room by walking to the middle of my living room. Were the idol to exist, I would be unable to do that, and therefore the idol’s existence would not be disproven.

The problem you run into is that nobody wants to define God in any useful way anymore. Back in the Old Days, of course, God was He Who Threw Lighting Bolts, such that our current understanding of lightning disproves that jackass fair and square. Now, of course, God seems to be engaged in a rearguard action as regards the existence question, retreating into ever more smugly philosophical realms where it’s taken for granted that he cures all cancer that gets cured but is not morally responsible if a good person dies of cancer…

It is a fallacy that positive assertions cannot be falsified. It depends on their scope, and the resources available.

“There exists an elephant somewhere in the universe” cannot practically be falsified.

“There exists an elephant in my living room” I can falsify immediately.

“There exists an elephant within 10 miles of my house” could be falsified with a search team, an exhaustive search strategy, and perhaps a few helicopters.

The problem arises if you then claim that I have not falsified the assertion on the grounds that it might be a toy elephant a few inches high. Or, when I have eliminated that possibility by scouring my living room floor to ceiling, that it might nevertheless be an invisible elephant.

So, it seems to me that the pressing problem with “There is a God” is not that a positive assertion is, in principle, unfalsifiable. The problem is that the word “God” is undefined. If data rules out the possibility of a God that intervenes in the world, or if reason forces an omnipotent and omniscient God to vanish in a puff of logic, the goalposts are simply moved, and God now becomes a truly unfalsifiable “ineffable ground of all being” or some such drivel. The falsifiability depends upon the clarity of the definition, not the framing of the assertion.

OK, because nobody’s mentioned it: The statement is a tautology, which means it’s true because it’s defined to be true, or assumed to be true, within the logical system being used. It’s equivalent to saying A = A or 1 = 1. This is not a fallacy; in fact, it’s rather important, philosophically, because without assumptions, you have nowhere to stand, and don’t even have a language you can use to express the fact you can’t demonstrate your own existence or lack thereof.

In short, he was perfectly correct: You can’t prove your own existence, because it’s you who’s doing the proving, so if you don’t exist, neither does the proof, QED. You have to take some things as assumptions to make any progress at all, and assuming you exist is a valid first step, assuming you exist.

Ha! Derleth, that was uncanny.

Well, it’s the central problem all debates of this nature founder on: Who is this God person anyway? It’s the end result of, on the one hand, Natural Philosophy expanding and expanding in all of the directions it can whizz, bringing the good old light of modern days to previously obscure mysteries like “Where do babies come from?” and “What the Hell was that?”, and, on the other, scruffy little radicals creating moral philosophies which diverge a bit from the Because I Said So Mandate school of right versus wrong, and at least attempt to look at good and evil from a rational perspective.

All that’s left are platitudes, like “You’ll see him when you believe him”, which leads me to think God must be an N-ray.

Regarding the actual question: existence is not proof of existence. A thing and its proof are not the same. For instance, a black cat may exist in a dark room, but you wouldn’t know it because you can’t see it. But in a legal proceeding, if several witnesses say there was a cat there before the lights went out and the doors and windows were closed, then we can take that as proof there is a cat there. Of course we typically derive the proof that something exists from its existence in some way.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to prove that something exists by pure logic. I can say “I can lie” and prove that I can without doing it, but I can’t say “lies exist” and prove they do without showing one.

As for the existence of a god: the only thing we know is that there is no reasonable evidence that supernatural beings exert influence on our world. If if there is a god, she is taking a hands-off approach and therefore the “if a tree falls…” thing applies.

I’m an atheist because I reject theism, not because I poses proof that all 2800 or so gods postulated throughout history don’t exist. Almost all of us are 2799/2800 parts atheist anyway. Just round it up to 2800/2800 and be done with it.

I disagree with the general sentiment here. This strikes me as begging the question or circular reasoning, whichever way of putting it you prefer. That is, we’re trying to prove that God exists, so using his existence as proof of his existence is pretty much a text book case of that.

That said, I think the point he’s trying to make is that existence would necessarily leave some form of evidence that would allow us to prove his existence and then that evidence would then be used to prove it. So, like using the “my thumb exists because it exists” assertion, it produces visual evidence, in that I can see it, and it can be used to interact with the environment in some measurable way. But that’s just my assumption on what he might have meant and one would still have to agree on what evidence God’s existence might or might not generate and whether or not that proves he exists.

This is probably drifting into GD territory, but this argument is common and it bugs me too, mostly because I think it’s a gross simplification of various beliefs of God. Yes, some or even many theists argue that only their very specific set of properties for God is true and anything else is just plain false, and that’s what this sort of argument would work for, but there’s other ways to look at it. For instance, there may be some dispute about it but as a general rule, the Abrahamic faiths more or less claim to believe in the same God, they just disagree about some of the specifics. I know plenty of Christians and Jews who seem sympathetic that, even though they might argue followers of non-Abrahamic faiths might go to hell or whatever, at least sects of their faith or sister faiths are not. Some various polytheistic views argue that many gods or perspectives of perhaps some larger entity exist and they just have chosen a certain one or ones for various reasons. Extending that, some believe that the creator or creators or whatever exist, we all just have various experiences and ideas about the nature of that being, and so no one is completely wrong, particularly as it is experiential, or for that matter, no one is probably completely right about the nature of God (or whatever replacement term they use). Similarly, I know plenty of people who believe this and accept various other religious views, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. So, I don’t think one can really argue that any of those would fit the “2799/2800” atheist assertion.

Of course the nice (or infuriating, depending on the side you land on) part of belief is that it doesn’t require any precision so perhaps there are indeed people who believe a deity exist and it could be any one of 1400 different ones.

But who cares as long as that god or those gods don’t exert any influence over our world?

But isn’t atheism just another form of theism? You’re taking a stance on something. You are basically choosing to be 2800/2801 atheist. By doing so, you are issuing your own opinion on something you yourself admit that you have no evidence of. Agnosticism is the only valid approach. Anything else asserts a false understanding of something that we simply do not understand.

Science is great and all, but I’d be surprised if our collective knowledge amounts to 0.01% of what is actually going on.

I can’t, of course, speak for him. But he seems to be referring to, not the existence OF something in particular, but existence itself. He seems to be saying (correctly) that existence is axiomatic. That is, its opponents must accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it. Existence is a self-sufficient primary. There is nothing antecedent to existence, nothing apart from it - and no alternative to it. Thus, the existence of anything in particular (or anything at all) is proof of existence in general.

No, because “theism” consists of more than just taking a stance on something-see here, here, and here for example.

I’ll take any collection of knowledge over any collection of wishful thinking any day of the week.

There are different ways to approach atheism.

One way, which you seem to subscribe to, is the positive belief that there is no god of any kind. This is problematic, because it’s impossible to empirically prove that something doesn’t exist, even without the use of vague, meaningless definition of “god”.

Another way is the absence of a positive belief that there is a god.

A third way, which I subscribe to, is rejecting the question “is there a god?” as a reasonable course of inquiry. Either a god influences our world and is thus subject to scientific study, which invalidates the supernaturalness of the god phenomenon, or a god doesn’t influence our world and whether he exists is meaningless.

Agnosticism is the easy way out. :confused:

There is a theory (which cannot be disproven) that you are just a brain in a jar and everything you see is just an illusion; none of it really exists. But even in that scenario, you know that you yourself exist (and probably the jar too). I don’t see any problem with “I think therefore I exist, and consequently I can rule out the silly notion that nothing exists or that existence itself has no meaning.”

OTOH, I’ve seen over and over again where Christian Presuppositionists argue that when we say Jehovah created everything, that means EVERYTHING, including not just the things in the universe but also the laws of physics, the rules of logic, and existence itself. So, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you found a few Christian Presuppositionists who insist that it IS a logical fallacy to conclude ANYTHING without first starting from the assumption that Jehovah exists, even before you discuss the concept of what existence means. I’m not picking on Christians here. I’ve seen Muslims make similar claims too.